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Friday, August 8, 2014

Gojira (1954) a.k.a Godzilla

Gojira is, without a doubt, one of the finest creature features ever made.  It starts with a brilliant story which is a critique of the atomic age after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 as well as H-bomb testing in the Pacific Ocean in 1952.  Screenwriter Takeo Murata and visionary director Ishiro Honda took Shigeru Kayama’s novel and adapted it for the screen.  The themes in the movie were so powerful that when it came time to adapt the Japanese film for American audiences, much of the stinging commentary was left out.  Personally, the original version is a more coherent story and is much stronger that what would become Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1956).

The next thing they needed was a great monster.  Director of photography and special effects guru Sadamasa Arikawa originally wanted to use stop motion animation for Gojira but no one in Japan was experienced with this filming technique.  So, he decided on a “guy in a suit” who would destroy a miniaturized set.  He worked a long time on developing the creature which was a mix of a T-Rex and an Iguanodon with Stegosaurus spikes and alligator skin detail.  It might be a guy in a suit, but it had to be a terrifying guy in a suit!  As a bit or trivia the original Godzilla was charcoal grey, not green.  Furthermore, the actor’s head is actually in the neck and the creature stood at a height of 2 meters.

From the very beginning of the film, the director establishes a feeling of dread and helplessness which never lets up until the closing credits.  There is also lots of angst, hidden secrets and regrets which give the film depth and complexity.  The cast is great and I think it’s essential to see Gojira in its original language with subtitles.  The dubs in the American version are less than accurate in conveying the emotions needed to carry this film.

Not much more needs to be said.  Gojira is right up there with 1931’s Frankenstein in terms of creating an iconic monster that spawned endless sequels and rip-offs.  The original is still the best so make sure you catch this horror classic.  See it on the biggest screen possible and if you can snag the Criterion Blu-ray version to watch, it’s probably the best one available.

RATING: Excellent.

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

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